FAIRBANKS — A downtown zoning ordinance is back before the Borough Assembly less than five weeks after a similar one was defeated.
This marks a second attempt to create zoning types that would encourage investment in downtown Fairbanks.
In March, the assembly rejected new zones after hours of public testimony and a 4-4 vote, saying they were too restrictive on things like building standards and parking. Nearly 20 residents, many of them business owners, showed up to ask the assembly to approve the new zones.
“The public comment from stakeholders was overwhelmingly supportive,” Assemblyman Karl Kassel said.
The new proposal, introduced by assembly members Nadine Winters, Diane Hutchison and Kassel, loosens up on parking.
“That’s the thing that seemed to be the bone of contention,” said David van den Berg, executive director of the Downtown Association.
The Downtown Association wants to use the zoning types to implement Vision Fairbanks, a long-term revitalization plan for downtown.
They set standards for new buildings on things like building facades, setbacks and window transparency. The zoning categories come with a list of permitted uses, such as clothing stores, ice cream shops and professional offices. The rules would only apply to new buildings and uses in the event of a rezone; all existing properties and uses would be grandfathered in.
“All we’re doing is creating more options. When there are more options, you’re more likely to get what you want,” Kassel said.
The former plan was revised to allow surface parking lots in the downtown supporting zone and accessory parking (lots connected to businesses) in the hot spot zone, the tiny inner core.
The original plan excluded parking lots, and encouraged more on-street parking, in order to make the streetscape more pedestrian-friendly.
Hutchison said excluding parking lots was foolish, especially if you want to attract residents in addition to tourists.
“If you want residents you have to cater to year-round people,” she said.
Van den Berg said the amended proposal would still help make downtown more vibrant.
“Maybe this ordinance strikes a better balance between conventional parking and the pedestrian experience,” he said.
Assembly members Michael Dukes, Natalie Howard, Matt Want and Joe Blanchard voted against the last zoning ordinance. Assemblyman Tim Beck was absent.
Contact staff writer Molly Rettig at 459-7590.